Social Media Mistakes with Laura Kamoie – #HNS2019

Laura Kamoie amazes me with her ability to co-write such wonderful novels as America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton with Stephanie Dray. Combine that talent with a talk on the dos and don’ts of social media and I was lining up for this presentation at #HNS2019.

Laura gave us her qualifications immediately: she used to write romance and that genre is very good at social media so she learned from some of the best!

#1 Mistake – too much time on social media and not enough time writing. Don’t get overwhelmed by social media. You don’t have to do it all. Figure out what you’re comfortable with and be authentic. And if you’re going to be selective, according to Laura, Facebook is where readers hang out, particularly the 40+ crowd. Twitter is where influencers and industry folks hang out.

Laura offered the group several tangible ideas to keep in mind as we work on our social media presence.

EASY TO FIND = EASY TO PURCHASE

First, make sure you have a social media presence such as a website with your name prominently displayed. Use the PIN feature on Facebook and Twitter. Include retail links – all of them, not just Amazon to make it easy and to reduce clicks for readers. Include the covers of your books to create a branded look.

YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE SERVES READERS

Make sure that what you write and what kind of stories you write serve readers. Again, Laura mentioned retail links. Include quotes about your book(s). Find ways to take people through the stages of new to you ==> reader ==> fan ==> superfan. Superfans will bring other readers to you.

PURPOSE OF ONLINE PRESENCE IS TO SELL BOOKS

Goals of social media book promotion are to gain exposure for you as an author and what you write. To foster discoverability. To build you name, brand, and book recognition. To build relationships with existing readers so that readers will feel invested in you and feel some sort of kinship with you. To network and build relationships with authors, bloggers, reviewers. These relationships will get others talking about your books. (See, I did that at the beginning of this post!) To find new readers. And ultimately, to sell books.

Mistakes on Facebook and Twitter:

  • your posts are either too sell/buy or too personal/diluted
  • you don’t engage/interact – remember that social media shrinks the distance between author and readers; you need to engage and readers want you to engage
  • you don’t post regularly enough – Laura recommends 2-3 times per day
  • you have no custom URL on Facebook
  • you have no branded cover image
  • you don’t have an author page on Facebook (as distinct from your personal page)
  • you have no description and/or no links on your Facebook cover image
  • you don’t pin a post to signify its importance and to prompt shares
  • check out Laura’s Facebook page for ideas; click on her header image for Ribbons of Scarlet to see what she has included;

AT A GLANCE YOUR WEBSITE SHOULD CONVEY

  • your genre
  • your personality
  • whether visitor’s interests match your offer
  • Laura recommends checking out the websites of: Kristin Hannah, Steve Berry, Geraldine Brooks, Christina Baker Kline, Susan Meissner, Alma Katsu, Jennifer Robson

Mistakes on Website:

  • unclear branding/messaging about who you are and what you write and what kind of emotional reading experience your books offer
  • missing retail links
  • no master book list, no information on what’s coming soon
  • out of date/stagnant information
  • inactive blog
  • hard to spell/difficult to remember URL

Website Must Haves

  • newsletter signup
  • about page to convey who you are in an engaging way with headshot and short bio
  • separate page for each book that includes cover, buy links, short description, social proof

In closing, Laura reminded us not to be overwhelmed and to do what you are comfortable with. In her own case, Laura is on Twitter at least once a day; on Facebook 2-3 times a day; she has a virtual assistant; and posts about her backlist on TBT (Throwback Thursday).

Well, if you aren’t exhausted, I was at the end of that session (I know I didn’t capture everything!!) and as I prepare this post I admit to feeling daunted all over again by the work involved with social media. I already spend many hours to sustain my blog — clearly that’s not enough if I want to serve and engage with readers!

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Tips on Writing a Series #HNS2019

At #HNS2019 I attended In For the Long Haul: The Craft of Writing a Series. This panel was moderated by Donna Russo Morin (great job, Donna!) with Nancy Bilyeau, Patricia Bracewell, and Anne Easter Smith as contributors. The session was designed to “weigh the pros and cons of writing a series and look at the decisions necessary in the earliest planning stages and beyond.” So let’s see what these wonderful writers had to say.

At the beginning the moderator made two clarifications: (1) a trilogy involves three novels with a tight connect of time, theme, character and sometimes location; (2) a series often involves one main character and is often based on a series of mysteries. As the session began, Donna asked each author to give some general comments on their series.

Patricia Bracewell: has written a trilogy based on the life of Emma of Normandy, England’s twice-crowned queen, which sprang from her life-long fascination with all things medieval. In her novels Pat attempts to re-create Emma’s early medieval world for readers as well as introduce them to this little known queen who has slipped into the footnotes of history. She feels that the same theme(s) will often run through a series/trilogy. For example, family, loyalty, duty. Such themes connect readers to their current lives and circumstances. However, conflicts vary from book to book to make the entire series more interesting.

Anne Easter Smith: her series based on the York family during the War of the Roses deals with different characters and could be considered a family saga. Each book is complete on its own and yet together they give an in-depth look at one of the two families whose viable claim to the throne threw England into civil war. Themes of morality, love vs. lust, duty, family, and loyalty are explored. Anne gave each protagonist a different skill – such as a musical instrument or a love of reading – that allowed exploration of something unique to that time period to enhance the story.

Donna Russo Morin has written a series telling the story of a secret society of women artists, under the tutelage of Leonardo da Vinci, who must navigate the treacherous life of 15th century Florence while trying to bring their artistry to the world.

Nancy Bilyeau’s series begins with The Crown where an aristocratic young nun – Joanna Stafford – must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. Subsequent novels continue Joanna’s story.

The group moved on to the pros and cons of writing series:

  • you can leverage your research because each novel is immersed in the same time and place
  • you have to like your characters because you will be spending a lot of time with them!
  • maintaining consistency of fact is essential (the authors have different ways to do this)
  • you need to avoid getting into a rut in terms of scenes; for example, you can’t have every scene happen in the Great Hall of some grand family castle
  • readers who have enjoyed your first book will usually stick with you for subsequent books in the series
  • you need to find ways to cover the years that intervene between stories in the trilogy, while avoiding a major information dump at the beginning of each subsequent novel
  • in addition to consistency of fact, you must maintain consistency of character
  • at times you can write the same scene but from a different character’s POV

Then there was a discussion about having an overarching storyline or book-specific storylines:

  • leave open questions at the end of your 1st and 2nd books (if writing a trilogy). This will entice readers to return for subsequent novels.
  • each book has to have a major conflict and a major resolution, even if there is an over-arching storyline for the series
  • you have to know what the final resolution will be; Donna Russo Morin (DRM) said that she wrote the last three chapters before writing the rest of the book. Donna has written the Da Vinci Disciples series.
  • Nancy Bilyeau (NB) mentioned that if she had to do it all over again, she would make the books more self-contained so that each story stands on its own. Nancy novels are about a novice in the time of Henry VIII.

General advice:

  • create a genealogy chart and a dramatis personae list for your novels
  • get clear about the historical events that will appear in your series/trilogy
  • start young in the life of your character, which leaves lots of room for excitement
  • think carefully about whether your fictional character has children because those children will have to appear in the story (of course, you can’t change the facts about the children of real characters)
  • PB has a “rap sheet” for each of her 80 characters; she updates these rap sheets for subsequent books and plants the seeds of change in book 1 for subsequent books
  • a huge amount of planning is required to get it right
  • historical series are popular with publishers, although most publishers buy one book at a time

Words of wisdom if you are considering writing a series or trilogy.

The first post I wrote about #HNS2019 is The State of Historical Fiction through the eyes of agents and editors.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

The State of Historical Fiction #HNS2019

Elizabeth Mahon author of Scandalous Women moderated a lively discussion with this year’s agents and editors panel on the state of historical fiction in the marketplace. The conference was wonderful!! I wrote furiously to capture their insights and advice.

Photo courtesy of Janna G. Noelle historical fiction author

On the topic of whether this is a golden age for historical fiction (see this NYTimes article for reference), one panel member reflected on readers’ desires to look back at earlier times to gain an understanding of today’s cultural and political difficulties. Others spoke of growing interest in hearing from voices across the spectrum, seeking to appreciate experiences of previously marginalized groups, and of a desire to read about extraordinary women in extraordinary times, particularly in light of the #metoo movement.

Diversity in historical fiction was another topic. Agents and editors spoke of their desire to discover stories reflecting the trauma, accomplishments, and joys of different groups and countries. With publishing still being “monolithically white”, there is a feeling that the industry—agents, publishers, retailers, and readers—needs to be more proactive about finding these stories and fighting the view that such stories serve niche markets.

On manuscript wish lists, #MSWL, the advice for authors is that it’s hard to pivot based on today’s wish lists because it takes so long to complete a novel. While authors should be aware of market interests and successes, authors should still be guided by their passions. One editor commented that she “doesn’t know what she wants” until she sees it. Another said that themes are important and often transcend specific wish lists.

On the topic of book club fiction, panel members said that personal transformation is an important ingredient and that sisterhood—both narrow and broad definitions of sisterhood—is a topic of interest. Book club selections need to be thought provoking and capable of generating discussion and of attracting as wide an audience as possible.

What are the biggest mistakes new historical fiction authors make?

  • Providing an info-dump of all the wonderful historical research at the beginning of a novel.
  • Building characters with modern sensibilities, instead of the sensibilities of their time, immediately signals a problem.

Elizabeth asked each panel member to provide a recent novel that stood out. My TBR pile will soon reach the ceiling if I add all these to it!

  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
  • The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati
  • Lady Sherlock books by Sherry Thomas
  • Summer Country by Lauren Willig
  • Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
  • A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor
  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  • A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
  • Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Elizabeth Mahon opened the session up to questions:

How has the changed bookstore landscape affected business? Discoverability has changed as a result. Social media plays a much more prominent role and publishers are targeting influencers on various platforms. The new landscape expands the “democracy of readership” and changes the word-of-mouth dynamic.

When will the interest in WWII end? The opinion of one panel member was that it will never end, especially the unique stories, fresh perspectives, and unique characters of WWII. For example, stories of the Pacific front have not been well explored. The panel reassured authors that they continue to look at other periods as well.

What periods are a hard sell? One panel member said that ancient history is difficult to sell, another added that stories beyond 500 years ago are difficult. A third said that the Tudor period is saturated. And a fourth said that in the early 2000s, there was an interest in biographical fiction, but that today the interest is more about extraordinary people in extraordinary times.

What about male protagonists? Panel members reflected that readership of historical fiction skews female and that women’s stories are more revelatory given today’s world (by which I think she was referring to issues dominating the media like #metoo, abortion and others). Editors are always open to great stories with male characters.

I hope these highlights are useful!

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.